Charles Warner: Lots of Content Is Good for Democracy

One of the 6,387 themes in Dan Brown's new best-seller, The Lost Symbol is that God is not an external force or being, but is within each of us. The same might be said of content.

In my last blog, titled "Content Is Not King," I made the point that the explosive growth of the internet has led to such a proliferation of content out in the long tail that it is now virtually infinite. To say that "content is king" in today's world is like saying "a grain of sand is precious."

One of the reasons for the proliferation of content is that anyone on the internet can self-publish - blogs, YouTube, Facebook updates and comments, Twitter, Flickr, personal Websites, and on and on. Everyone can create content and publish their views, and the surfeit of opinion creates debate and argument, which is good for the democratic process.

In 1990 historian Chris Lasch wrote an essay titled "The Lost Art of Political Argument" suggesting that the decline in participation in the political process in the U.S. correlated with the rise of professional journalism, and put forth a convincing argument as to why.

Our search for reliable information is itself guided by the questions that arise during arguments about a given course of action. It is only by subjecting our preferences and projects to the test of debate that we come to understand what we know and what we still need to learn. Until we have to defend our opinions in public, they remain opinions in [Walter] Lippmann's pejorative sense--half-formed convictions based on random impressions and unexamined assumptions. It is the act of articulating and defending our views that lifts them out of the category of "opinions," gives them shape and definition, and makes it possible for others to recognize them as a description of their own experience as well. In short, we come to know our own minds only by explaining ourselves to others.

Thus, by bloggers, journalists, and pundits creating content on the Web and elsewhere, they not only hone their own opinions, but they also add to the diversity of the debate and allow others to shape their views - a process that leads to the wisdom of crowds.

The First Amendment wasn't written to protect facts; it was written to protect debate, and the plethora of content, argument, and debate is a good thing.

The outmoded idea that "content is king" was based primarily on its scarcity. But on the internet, content, like all the sand on all the world's beaches, is not scarce. And this plethora of content may make gems harder it find, but the search and the ensuing debate generated by searches is good for our democracy.

Hollywood’s How-to Guide to Web Piracy

This one circulated around the Web earlier this month, but I didn’t see it until Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield included it in a note yesterday: A 10-minute presentation, delivered by Paramount COO Frederick D. Huntsberry, that gives a through, if rudimentary, tutorial on how steal the movies his company makes.

As the intro to the video notes, Huntsberry was delivering his  chat at Federal Communications Commission hearing earlier this month. And as best I can tell, he was trying to alarm the FCC by pointing out just how easy it is to grab this stuff.

Along the way, he notes how many “legitimate” companies participate, in their own way, in the piracy value chain. Everyone from small storage startup, which allows users to host big data files for little or no charge, to Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO), which can point people toward pirate havens gets tarred with his brush.

Not surprisingly, the video inspired all manner of invective from my fellow bloggers, who railed about Huntsberry’s lack of sophistication, his temerity in asking the FCC for help in stopping piracy, and other offenses real and imagined.

I find it hard to get worked up about it, though, since I hear this stuff from media executives all the time. The big difference, though, is that the ones who are most impassioned about it usually don’t want the FCC to stop piracy. They want the industry to offer compelling alternatives to piracy.

For instance, here’s a site someone who works for a very big media company points me to with some regularity. Said executive says it’s the latest and greatest in piracy. I wouldn’t know, because the download scares me off (and in case my employer is wondering – I don’t condone piracy, but I do write about it). But I’ll take said executive’s word for it.

In any case, the idea is not to tip me off about a great place to hoover up a camcorded version of “Pandorum”, but to point out how fast this stuff evolves, and how difficult it is stop. I don’t see any harm in noting that, right?

Vid-Biz: 3D TV, News Corp., New Hires

3D TV Not All its Cracked Up to 3Be? Even with a new TV you’ll still need to wear the glasses, and the content becomes unwatchable for those not wearing glasses. (TV by the Numbers)

Fox Interactive Now Called News Corp. Digital Media; new name comes with management shuffling. (paidContent)

Hiring News: AOL hires former YouTube monetization guy, Shashi Seth (release) and Transpera brings Jason Weisberger on board as President and COO. (release) Michael J. Pohl named CEO of Jinni, he was formerly president of C-COR. (release)

Toobla Formally Launches; online bookmarking tool for collecting, playing and sharing web content now available to the general public. (Toobla)

Adobe and Turner Expand Alliance; cable network to adopt Adobe’s video editing products. (release)

Avid Partners with Sorenson Media; Sorenson 5 Squeeze integrated into Avid products, enabling video editing and encoding in one place. (emailed release)

Deliver rich interactive experiences
Engage more viewers with Adobe® Flash® Media Interactive Server 3.5
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Prime View Ups Terms Of Deal For E Ink

With some shareholders threatening not to approve Taiwan-based Prime View International‘s offer to purchase E Ink, Prime View has now upped the terms of its agreement to buy the company, which makes display technology vital to the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle and Sony (NYSE: SNE) Reader. In addition to the $215 million in cash it had already offered, Prime View is now adding 120 million preferred shares that can be converted into common stock if Prime View’s stock increases from 50 to 80 Taiwanese dollars over the next three years (By my calculation, that could add $300 million to the value of the deal at current exchange rates).

Prime View says it’s improving the terms because of the “explosive growth” of the ePaper market and “rapidly improving financial performance” at E Ink. But there were reports that in its previous incarnation, shareholders, who had put more than $170 million into E Ink over the last 12 years, would have voted down the deal because it was not lucrative enough. In fact, Prime View now says it has “irrevocable written consent from major E Ink shareholders representing sufficient holdings to attain shareholder approval.”

The release also includes some new details about E Ink’s financial performance. Prime View says that E Ink’s revenue was $96 million during the first nine months of the year, up 250 percent from a year ago.


paidContent Quick Hits: 9.30.09

»  Barry Diller talks to Katie Couric about the “myth” of free internet. [CBS News]

»  Why the FCC wants a $350 billion internet system. [Wall St. 24/7]

»  Companies like Coca-Cola and General Mills will spend about $500 million a year testing how reliable their online research is. [NY Times]

»  The decision on which pay model the chooses is going to come down to a “gut call.” [NY Observer]

»  An interview with F. Warren Hellman about his new “Bay Area News Project,” which he hopes won’t kill the San Francisco Chronicle. [Forbes]

»  Regardless of how much they’d save, 66 percent of internet users don’t want to be tracked online. [Search Engine Land]

»  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is concerned that traditional media is facing a “perfect storm” that could be fatal. [B&C]

This Exists: The 2010 Great American Conservative Women Calendar

prejeanBecause even calendars — calendars, of all things! — have to be politicized, somehow: the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute has put together a calendar highlighting one conservative woman for each month of the year. Carrie Prejean and Michele Bachman are on the list; don’t you want to know the rest?

In fairness, they didn’t go the Fox News blonde fembot route; women made the calendar based on ideology and accomplishments, though it’s unclear what Prejean has done aside from oppose gay marriage and get hit by a Perez Hilton witchhunt for it.

Here’s the roundup:

2010 con women

Pat Buchanan’s sister Bay Buchanan; Carrie Prejean; Clare Boothe Luce herself; Representative Michele Bachmann; Why You’re Wrong About the Right coauthor S.E. Cupp; CURE president Star Parker; Phyllis Schlafly; pollster Kellyanne Conway; Ann Coulter; Virginia pol Kate Obenshain; right-wing publisher Marji Ross; and Hot Air founder/political commentator Michelle Malkin. has a slideshow of the calendar here.

Here’s a “behind-the-scenes video of the 2010 calendar shoot:”